I first met Jesper at the HUB VIP cocktail party at The Upper House at the beginning of this year. Actually, I didn’t manage to visit the HUB since I was preoccupied with my work at that time; therefore I didn’t know Dienastie until the evening I met the brand’s founder and designer Jesper. I was lucky to be gifted a pair of Dienastie x The HUB limited edition sunglesses at the party and, later soon become one of their ambassadors.The first impression Jesper gave me, as with most designers and artists that come across as being extremely comfortable in their own skin, I expected him to be be an extremely playful and adventuresome person who lives up to the slogan of his own brand Dienastie “Play Hard, Die Nastie” However, after getting to know him more and working with him on several occasions, I found my expectations of him didn’t exactly match up with him well in real life, since I found there is another him behind, the self-possessed, bright, determined and balanced in both his personal and working life persona. After that, I realised why he needed to set up another eyewear brand Karl Twelve – yes, the designer is growing up mentally just like all of us. An interview with this talented Swedish entrepreneur and designer was therefore officially put on my agenda, and I came to know he is the kind of inspiring person I feel people would like to know more about.Cynthia Lo: Tell our readers a little about yourself, Jesper. Where are you from? What’s your educational background? What are your general professional and non-professional interests?
Jesper Lindquist: I’m a Swedish creative soul with a passion for life. Early I realized that education can only teach me that much. Best lessons are learned in the real world. I finished my master thesis in Business and Marketing at an honorable university in Sweden, but since then I let the world travel do the teaching. I do believe in a basic training or education, but too much will box you in and its better to build your own sphere than to be boxed in by a society that tells you what to do and who to be. I don’t really have any professional interests because I don’t see the difference between work and life. If I have any spare time I spend my time traveling or playing with my dog, Cike. Of course I have other interests as art, movies and music, but this isn’t an ad for match.com is it..;)Cynthia Lo: What does fashion mean to you? When did you realise you wanted to become a fashion designer?
Jesper Lindquist: I personally don’t like to talk about fashion as much as Style. An old cliché saying, fashion fades style is eternal is more true than most people realize. I like to create things that are classical and that be enjoyed for seasons to come. Fashion industry is in its nature not sustainable; it’s a very wasteful industry. That is a principle that I really dislike. Same goes for the eyewear section of it. We are always trying to use sustainable materials and recycled materials in our frames and packaging. I am also working on a person project where we are trying to collect used sunglasses and melt down the materials for reuse. It’s a project that I am passionate about.Jesper Lindquist: The second part of the question is a completely different question all together. Although I have been creative since I was a child, I don’t see myself as a designer, it is just one of many roles I have to take on as an entrepreneur. Some days I am accountant, others bartender, and then of course a lot of them designer. So the quick and true answer to your question is, I realized in my teens that I wanted to do something special with my life, and it was not until my early twenties that I realized the best way to reach that goal was in form of an entrepreneur.Cynthia Lo: I know you designed clothes before, but you ended up becoming an eyewear designer. Why did you make this change? How does designing eyewear differ from designing clothes?
Jesper Lindquist: It’s true that worked with clothing before, but more of helping with sourcing and manufacturing solutions for overseas customers than designing. What I learned in that field was that clothing is a very difficult and tiresome trade and the competition is just to fierce. Problem with “us”80’s and 90’s kids is that everybody wants to be a designer, especially clothing designer. The math simply doesn’t add up when there are as many designers as there are customers. So I decided to develop a brand within a different segment of the fashion industry. A product that is fun, easy to market and small and light so it’s suitable for the growing Internet sales. Designing wise, I feel like most other creatives, that it doesn’t really matter what you are designing, it’s just a way of getting your message through. Currently I am designing eyewear, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t design furniture, jewelry or tech gadgets in the future.Cynthia Lo: How would you define your personal style? Where do you get inspiration? As an eyewear designer, do you have a favorite designer? Who is s/he and why?
Jesper Lindquist: It’s not easy to define my style, but I do feel like Scandinavian minimalism and thoughts have had some impact on me. At the same time I wanted to add fun into the mix. I feel Scandinavian design sometimes is too cold and strict. My style is more fun and playful, at least in my opinion. I get a lot of inspiration from architecture. I have always admired building structures and solutions. I am mixing this with impulses and inspiration from my traveling lifestyle. You can never create any spectacular pieces from sitting in the same office day in and day out. Inspiration comes from the world around us!Jesper Lindquist: For the same reason I don’t see myself as a designer but an entrepreneur my answer to this question will be people like Richard Branson. I know it’s a very typical name, but few have shown such a big love for life and at the same time challenging the world around us. I don’t care for his wealth, but his life philosophy is definitely aligned with mine. “I don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living” – Richard Branson.Cynthia Lo: Let’s talk about your sunglasses brand, Dienastie. I know you’re not just a designer, but also the founder of this brand. When did you start it and why? What’s the inspiration/ story behind Dienastie?
Jesper Lindquist: I think my answers above are already answering these questions. To further develop, Dienastie came out in a time after 2 failed companies. Everybody always talks about their successes, very few mention their failures. But to be honest, the best way to learn is to get burnt. What I learned from my first trials as an entrepreneur guided me to create Dienastie. A fun, playful brand with very few limitations on directions to take. It can take you anywhere; to a beach, racing track, electronic festival, on stage etc. I started to develop the products and brand in 2011. It took me until last year when I felt we were ready for a real launched and since then it has just kept on growing.Cynthia Lo: I personally really like the lifestyle and the concept you’re trying to express through Dienastie, just like the zestful slogan for the brand which says “Play Hard, Die Nastie” – could you explore these four words a little bit? What does the lifestyle of “Play Hard, Die Nastie” look like in your world?
Jesper Lindquist: Well it’s really simple actually. It’s basically about challenging yourslef, the same way I have my whole life. People often become safe and comfortable. Straight out of Uni all my friends got well-paid, safe jobs in Sweden. What did I do? I bought a one-way ticket to Beijing. And looking at our bank accounts I am sure my old swedish friends feel much safer than me, but on the life account, I already feel like I’ve lived 3 lives and it never stops! This is what I tried to mix into the Dienastie name and philosophy. First of all “Dienastie” stands for dynasty – a new era. Many people live their lives just to please other’s expectations. We want people to start to do what they want in life, whatever that is – it might be to become an architect, a doctor, a painter etc. It’s time to start pursuing that dream and just do it – A new era has begun – a new “Dienastie”.Dienastie also stands for not fearing making that choice of starting something new. It’s about taking that risk that they use to fear so much – to be prepared to -die nasty – “Die Nastie”. People will notice though after taking that first fearful step that it’s not so “dangerous”. They will be glad that they did it. It’s pretty much another way of saying Carpe Diem. This is something my childhood friend and now business partner in the business learned first hand when he, although a few years after me, quit his safe (and sorry) job and bought a one way ticket to Asia. He hasnt regretted it once and I am pretty sure he never will. We are all gonna die, so why not challenge the world and yourself and go do it, play hard, die nastie!Cynthia Lo: As the designer and director of Dienastie, I assume you have a crazily packed daily schedule – I know what that is like as I’m also doing a couple of things at the same time. But I wonder how do you manage everything, especially as when you’re designing and creating you need to be more intuitive, whereas at the same time, you need to be sensible when you’re making strategies for your business; so, how do you bring it all together?
Jesper Lindquist: This is a funny question since you didn’t realize that it would take me a month to respond to it. I try to divide the roles into segments of a few days. Some days are “office days” when I clear my desk, answer emails, organize receipts and write up PR strategies. Other days I take completely off from all responsibility and do the creative parts. Actually, the best way I have found is to travel away somewhere and just get at it. I can design 20-30 rough draft frames an hour. Then comes the hard work, selection, materials, lenses, etc.Jesper Lindquist: It’s actually the hardest part of the business since It’s the most vital role. We can always survive a beach party that gets cancelled due to rain but we cant survive with a week collection. Its the part that always give me the most pressure, but at the same time it also gives me the biggest satisfaction when I get the first samples in my hands. It’s like Christmas but better. Only problem is that I have to keep them secret until the release, that is tough too. Kinda wanna blast them all over social medias but it’s only me and my few selected opinion makers that can talk about them.Cynthia Lo: Karl Twelve, another eyewear brand – Most people know about you through Dienastie and know about Karl Twelve through you. Why did you create this eyewear brand when you have Dienastie already? What exactly are you looking for through this brand which has its own, distinct soul that differs from Dienastie?
Jesper Lindquist: Well, it’s actually very simple. I created Dienastie as a tool to reach many people with my philosophy and lifestyle. Carpe Diem. And even if I said its made to be limitless, it has some limitation on what I can create and which materials to use. Cost and speciality is a factor. Therefore I created KVII. A brand in which I can have endless creativity and just go crazy. Of course there are still many design features and details that are similar with Dienastie but when you look at the frames you can see they are more refined and unique. It’s not a brand where I am looking to make money, it’s a brand where I can show my creativity and offer it to people who like it. And adding to that I choose to work with superior materials and handmade frames. Something I take a lot of pride and joy from.Cynthia Lo: I know you used to live in China for several years and now are based in HK, but the production remains in the Mainland. Why did you decide to move to HK and where/who are your main targeted markets for your business?
Jesper Lindquist: After almost 8 years in China I felt that it was time to change scenery. It had been fun, but there are too many things, like pollution and food safety, that just made it no fun anymore. I knew that, in order to continue to stay healthy and challenge the world, I would have to leave. I never stayed in China for manufacturing reasons, that can be solved in many ways. I loved China, and I still do. I just couldnt take the unnecessary beating of my body and organs. Moving to HK is however just as strategic as it is more healthy. We grow quickly in Mainland and know that we need to start heading south to have presence in South East Asia. Also a market that has almost 12 months summer, which will for sure make results better. We have a strong Asian focus, both in design and marketing, but we have now gotten pulled back over to Europe, so we will include a few frames for next season that are more suitable for European faces. Its always fun when you get recognition in your home market. So we’ll see where it leads to.Cynthia Lo: You’re such an inspiriting person, Jesper! You mentioned that you set some goals for your life; would you mind to share them with us? And also, what are your fashion goals?
Jesper Lindquist: I might be, but I am taught by my dear mother to be humble. If you think I am inspirational or inspiriting, I can only say thank you. I never aim to tell people what to do, or what is right or wrong. But I love to question structures and to question peoples’ life choices. Its always interesting to listen to people in their views of their own lives. So many times people are not happy about their situation in life; work, relationship, location, friends. I always say it doesn’t take much to make a change. Don’t talk, just do. Very simple. Don’t find reasons or excuses, life is too short to whine about it. Live it!Jesper Lindquist: My goals have always been to make a positive change in this world we live in. On what scale I don’t know. It might be very small, but no matter what, I wanted my life to matter. It feels like we can in some way convey that message through Dienastie, and that makes it very fun to work with! I believe in honesty above all. And we only work with people we like. There have been big potentials, but since they were offered by a$sholes (pardon my French), we simply turned them down. Success is not everything; I don’t want to look back on my business and not feel completely satisfied and proud. My personal goal is to be able to work less and spend more time with my family and friends. If that goal is ever reachable, I am not sure.What impressed me about Jesper is not his talent at designing eyewear or even founding his own company, but his attitude for life and actions to take steps to make everything happen. I still remember our first meeting at a cafe talking about our cooperation. During the meeting I pointed out that there are so many people who are psychologically sick, purchasing something unnecessary for their life and living with no soul. He agreed and said that he has set some goals in his life, apart from achieving his life targets, he prefers spending most of his time on the beach with his family, friends and the people he loves. I like the quote he is using for Dienastie – “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” So now, I know why he is an inspiration for me, which reminds me of something in the mirror!
Called: Jesper Lindquist
Location: Hong Kong
Occupation: Entrepreneur/ Designer
Set: Sheung Wan/ Sai Kung, H.K.